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Pooling their resources.

Siblings' Dream Of Sharing A Business Comes True In West Little Rock

The year is 1965.

The place is a stucco house at 1617 Pike Ave. in North Little Rock.

It's a typical Saturday afternoon at the Smith home.

Dent Smith Sr., a small business owner, is at work.

His businesses -- a laundry, an auto parts store, a liquor store and several service stations -- are near his home. But they keep him busy day and night.

Faye Smith, his wife, is out shopping for groceries.

Paula, the oldest Smith child at 15, is left in charge of her two younger siblings.

Like most brothers and sisters who are close in age, Dent Jr., 11, and Kathy, 8, squabble constantly.

"Paula! Dent's after me with his BB gun," screams Kathy, out of breath from the chase.

"Well, she scratched me," counters Dent, obviously guilty with the BB gun in hand.

Luckily, mother returns to handle the situation in her patient but firm manner.

Relieved, Paula returns to her room to finish getting ready for her date that evening. She doesn't realize she is Dent's next target. His weapon this time is a water hose, which he uses to douse Paula from head to toe just before her date arrives.

Ask the Smith kids today, and they'll tell you about those days.

In 1969, Faye Smith died.

In 1973, Dent Smith Sr. died.

Since then, Paula, Dent Jr. and Kathy have placed their relationship above all else.

Capturing the entrepreneurial spirit of their father and the patient yet determined spirit of their mother, the Smith siblings have begun a joint venture, Smitty's Billiards in west Little Rock.

Although they have never owned a business before, Paula says, "Our father had the Midas touch."

"That's right," says Dent Jr. "And if we have any of our father's genes, Smitty's is bound to succeed."

Rocky Road

The road to success hasn't been paved with gold, however.

After Dent came up with the idea for Smitty's more than two years ago, the siblings scrapped 23 plans before finding the right combination.

An article in Newsweek on upscale billiard parlors had sparked his interest. The siblings visited establishments across the country.

After considering a number of locations in the Little Rock area, their final choice was a designed-to-specifications, 11,000-SF building sandwiched between two restaurants, The Black-Eyed Pea and Tia's on North Shackleford Road.

The project stalled for a time in April when Paula's husband, John Bramlett, an executive vice president of Little Rock's Worthen National Bank of Arkansas, died of a heart attack.

The siblings were brought closer by the tragedy. Strangely, their joint project turned out to be Paula's saving grace.

"Smitty's has been what has kept me sane," says Paula, fighting back tears. "John's death could have destroyed me without Smitty's to focus my attention on. It has been a single-minded pursuit for me."

"She's one strong lady," Dent says. "Smitty's is largely Paula's doing."

Kathy says, "Paula is responsible for the extra touches -- all these wonderful antiques and contemporary paintings. She even directed the construction up until the final hours."

The antiques include a large stained-glass window, lit from behind.

Paula has some other ideas about why the pieces fell together before Smitty's opened Oct. 17.

"It's like John has been up there pulling the strings with all the powers that be," Paula says. "Something has been responsible for the phenomenal way everything has turned out."

Picture Perfect

When Smitty's was merely a concept, the Smiths had a difficult time painting a clear picture for others of what they wanted in a billiard parlor.

Following months of hard work by architects, designers and construction workers, Smitty's has turned out to be more than they ever imagined.

There are 14 regulation pool tables made with imported slate from Italy. There are four tournament shuffle-board tables, a big-screen color television, seven smaller televisions, a video game room, a full bar and a restaurant that serves everything from shrimp alfredo to chicken cordon bleu.

That's not to mention a specially designed sound system and a sophisticated smoke-removal system.

There's also a private meeting room that seats 25 to 30 people, offers a full bar, has two pool tables and features a private rest room.

"Everything in Smitty's was done by someone who cared a great deal," Paula says. "All of those people who worked for us became like our extended family."

The year is 1991.

The place is Smitty's.

Kathy Smith Reese, 34, and Paula Smith Bramlett, 41, are greeting customers on a busy Thursday evening.

Looking at the bustling business in their posh parlor, the sisters smile at each other. Hard work and determination seem to be paying off, just as their parents said.

Dent, 37, walks in. He has just finished his shift in the X-ray department at Little Rock's St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center. He'll have to work both days and nights at times, but that's OK. His father didn't mind, and neither does he.

The siblings had some good times as children.

With their dream of opening a billiard parlor and restaurant having come true, it looks as if there are more good times to be had.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Paula Smith Bramlett, Dent Smith, Jr. and Kathy Smith Reese's management of Smitty's Billiards
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 4, 1991
Words:866
Previous Article:Breakfast and bed: Arkansas' more than 200 bed-and-breakfast inns struggle to be noticed.
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